Approach and Confession:
God of love and justice, just as Jesus was filled with passion as he cleared the temple, may we be filled with that same fervour as we seek justice and righteousness in our world. As Jesus approached the cross, he never wavered in his purpose. So may we never flinch in our faith as we seek to serve you and each other. In this season of Lent, teach us your ways and keep our hearts and minds fixed on Jesus Christ your Son. Forgive our lack of love for you and for others. Overturn the tables of our false hearts and sweep aside all that keeps us from you. Show us your steadfast love and forgiveness as we seek to follow you once more.
Our God is full of compassion and in our need he has saved us. Let us be at peace, our God forgives us, through Jesus Christ.
Passover time in first Century Jerusalem saw pilgrims in their thousands descend upon the Holy City. Hundreds of priests in linen tunics worked shifts to serve at the temple altar. Foreign currency was changed for temple coin, lambs (and sometimes pigeons for the poorer families) were bought and slaughtered, passover meals were eaten, and God’s liberation of his people remembered. Into this maelstrom of religion, politics and commerce stepped Jesus. He took a whip made of cords and ‘drove out’ the money changers and traders from the temple precincts. But why?
In the other gospels, we are told that the money changers were corrupt, exchanging currency and taking a little for themselves on the side. But if this this was happening, John’s gospel doesn’t mention it. For John it was not so much what people were doing but where they were doing it. This was a sacred space dedicated for the worship of God. “Stop making my Father’s house a market place.” Said Jesus. Perhaps he discerned that the servicing of the institution of the temple had become more important than the temple’s purpose. If all the energies of the people go into buying and selling and all the worship space is taken up with money changers, then what room is there for God. What is the temple for? His action created criticism and made him powerful enemies. However, interestingly the authorities don’t criticise Jesus’s actions so much as his right to be the person to do them. They ask whose authority he is acting under. And here is the nub of the problem in John’s gospel. The authorities never seem to recognise God at work in Jesus. ‘Give us a sign that God is with you’ they say. That sign was given in Jesus death and resurrection, but for now the authorities are blind to this.
This is a passage of scripture which prompts us to pause and reflect upon what is important. Have the rituals of our faith become more important than genuine worship and a clean heart? Has money overtaken mission as our prime concern in church life? And what place does Jesus have in our hearts and minds?
Intercessions: Lord, you come to places of power and some are affronted at your audacity. Speak into the hearts of all in leadership in our world, that they may be open to the challenge of your kingdom. May the leaders of our world work for justice and peace, especially in those places which know only war. Lord, you come to your Church to challenge us about misguided priorities and false piety. Renew our faith so that all our endeavours in mission and service may be acceptable in your sight. Lord, you come to us with compassion. In all our frailties give to us your restoring presence. Minister to those who are sick and in need of your help, that they may know the joy of new life with you. We offer our prayer in the name of Christ our Lord.
Go forth to live with the teachings of God’s law to lead us, with the grace of Christ Jesus to guide us and with the peace of the Holy Spirit to sustain us. Go with God, and the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us always.